Top tips for school staff
Use these tips to help make school life and learning easier for a sibling who has a brother or sister with SEND.
- Ask siblings how they are regularly on a one to one basis. This will encourage siblings to come to you for support at a time when things are difficult for them. Ask them about the things they do at home to help their brother or sister; ask them if any things are different at home this week; ask them about what it is like getting homework done at home.
- Communicate with parents about siblings. Ask parents to keep you updated on significant events at home, for example, forthcoming surgery for their disabled child. If a sibling’s behaviour, mood or school work undergoes a sudden change, find out if that is in any way related to what is happening with their brother or sister.
- Give siblings some extra time and attention as siblings find it hard when they see most of the attention from parents and professionals being directed at their brother or sister.
- Help siblings develop their potential in areas where they can feel good about themselves and express their feelings. This could be through art, sport, music or drama. Many siblings do not get opportunities to develop interests outside of school due to the demands and costs of care on their family.
- Ask others to always address a sibling by their own name. Siblings are often referred to as someone’s brother or sister by professionals and it needs to be clear to siblings that they are important in their own right.
- Ensure that siblings are not taken out of class to support their brother or sister with SEND. Let siblings know that they are not responsible for the care or support of their brothers and sisters at school. Avoid using siblings to interpret for or to assist their brothers and sisters with school activities. Always ask siblings about the level of involvement they want at school with their brother or sister with SEND.
- Be zero-tolerant of derogatory language about disability or SEND. Siblings and pupils with SEND are often teased and bullied because they or their family are different.
- Be sensitive to siblings’ feelings when discussing topics such as genetics, death and disability. Many siblings worry about issues such as the implications of having children of their own or their brother or sister’s life expectancy.
- Tell siblings where they can get more help in school. If your school has a sibling champion then introduce the sibling to this member of staff, or set up a counselling or pastoral care session for the sibling.
- Signpost siblings to www.youngsibs.org.uk – the UK online support service for siblings of disabled children under 18. Let siblings know that they are not alone and that other siblings have similar feelings and experiences.
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